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    De-radicalization – Alien Word or Playing Kho-Kho?

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    De-radicalization – Alien Word or Playing Kho-Kho?

    Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

    The west coined a unique term called “violent extremism” implying that action needed to be taken once the extremist turned violent. Now take the Sarin Gas attack on the Tokyo Subway on 20 March, 1995 by the Aum Shinrikyo cult where in five coordinated attacks, Sarin was released on several lines of the Tokyo Metro, killing 13, severely injuring 50 and causing temporary loss of vision to some 1000 people.

    Since late 1980s, loudspeakers atop mosques were spewing anti-India venom and radical Muslim thoughts. Rather than integrating the education system with the rest of India, there was complete inaction.

    The Cult actually had two remote controlled helicopters and had even smuggled in a Russian Mi-8 helicopter part by part. Had they used aerial spraying, they had enough Sarin to kill one million Tokyoites. Can you classify members of this cult “non-violent extremists” before the Sarin gas attack? Are there ‘good' (non-violent) and ‘bad' (violent) extremists? But the term “violent extremism” was coined by design in the west. Witness that wherever western militaries went, they ignored radicalization, but this increased conflict and facilitated more and more weapon sales; the main export business of these countries.

    There was, therefore, no need to even link financial aid and other largesse with de-radicalization because it really did not matter if the region became more unstable because these regions were not part of their mainland anyway.

    Unfortunately, India followed the above path, by design or default, perhaps because of intransigence or politics. If the Yashwant Sinha group today says that there is anger in the Valley and there should be dialogue with all including Hurriyat separatists, why has the situation come to this stage?

    Have the intelligence agencies been leading the political hierarchy up the gum tree by consistently saying that Hurriyat separatists are “irrelevant”, letting them meet the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi and get briefed by Abdul Basit at will, visit Pakistan and keep radicalizing the youth on behest of Pakistan – all this while India was spending crores on these individuals?

    Today, the situation is that textbooks of even schools (not madrassas) in the Valley are preaching children to develop hatred towards non-Muslims. This replicates what is being taught in Paksiatni schools and colleges.

    How come the disaffection has spread even to the rural areas? What have our intelligence agencies been up to when despite Article 370, some 13,400 migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh (including some 5000 Rohingya Muslims) have colonized Jammu over the years? Why of all the places, J&K? Is there a larger diabolical plan in which the Indian mafia (read deep state) is involved?

    When TV first came to India, one could view the Indian flag being burnt whenever Pakistan lost cricket matches held at Srinagar. Fast forward to 2016 before Burhan Wani's killing and you witnessed Pakistani and ISIS flags being displayed in the Valley, especially on Fridays. And, all this was accepted as just another issue, even as the radicalized writ of the Hurriyat separatists was very clear in the vernacular newspapers. Since late 1980s, loudspeakers atop mosques were spewing anti-India venom and radical Muslim thoughts. Rather than integrating the education system with the rest of India, there was complete inaction.

    Today, the situation is that textbooks of even schools (not madrassas) in the Valley are preaching children to develop hatred towards non-Muslims. This replicates what is being taught in Paksiatni schools and colleges.

    Pervez Hoodbhoy, nuclear physicist at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad had written way back in 2008, “The promotion of militarism in Pakistan's schools, colleges and universities has had a profound effect on young people. Militant jihad has become a part of the culture in college and university campuses, with armed groups inviting students for jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan”.

    It is this same wahabi-salafi culture that Pakistan has been able to induce in the Kashmir Valley, gradually but consistently, using clerics and Huriiyat separatist leaders, while infiltrating trained terrorists, arms, narcotics and money. Insistence of our intelligence agencies that Hurriyat separatists are “irrelevant” has helped Pakistan's ISI. Frozen in the same time-wrap, we also refuse to acknowledge that China has joined hands and is the main force behind the instability in J&K.

    …it is the big powers using proxy forces to further their own national interest, which has provided further impetus to radicalization and terrorism.

    How much do the people of the Kashmir Valley know about the progress and problems of rest of India. George Fernandes as Defence Minister arriving at Srinagar was once informed that a large crowd in Baramula was chanting “azadi, azadi”. In his typical characteristic style he drove to Baramula with just one escort vehicle. The sloganeering became louder on sighting Fernandes. He let the crescendo rise before raising his hand to indicate he wanted to speak. With noise subsiding, he asked “aapko azadi chahiye” (do you want freedom?), and when there was a resounding “yes”, he said, “hamen bhi azadi chahiye” (we too want freedom). To the stunned youth he amplified everyone in India also wants freedom from unemployment and corruption.

    The incident is being quoted because there are periodic calls for the Prime Minister to talk to Kashmiris, but how many Kashmiris can he talk face to face and what ground level personal contact has ever been made by the J&K State administration? Sure there are no beggars in the Valley but has the state government explained to the public what plans they have to increase , through what means, its time schedule, and how terrorism impedes all this?

    Globalization and leading to scientific advances and enhanced global connectivity has jettisoned -wide prosperity. But this has also underscored wide disparities in terms of wealth and power amongst populations. These two phenomenon combined have also provided the means, however indirect, to promote extremism. Those who feel victimized or threatened with the cultural and economic impacts of globalization are increasingly getting attracted to radical and terrorist ideologies and joining such organizations. Of course there are other factors like unemployment, attraction for the bizarre, ideology, and degree of susceptibility to propaganda.

    To add to this, it is the big powers using proxy forces to further their own national interest, which has provided further impetus to radicalization and terrorism. Today, dedicated groups within individual terrorist organizations, and countries like Pakistan sponsoring terrorism, are working 24×7 to exploit the internet and social media to spread radical ideology, instill hatred and recruit cadres; simply because one click brings you in contact with millions.

    With China abetting Pakistani terror and Russia too going soft on Pakistan, we should be prepared for radicalization and instability in India on much higher scale without getting disillusioned by temporary halt in terrorist acts by Pakistan.

    There is no doubt that given the huge volume of data, monitoring the internet and social media is a mammoth task and there are always slippages even with the excessive regulations in a country like China. It is because of this that the US, in conjunction Israel, has gone in for public-private organization in order to address the issue of data mining; something that India needs to emulate. In our case, the “violent extremism” bit, politics, lax laws with excruciating slow judicial process, and intransigence have landed us in situations like UK that warning us in 2014 about the Bengaluru techie Medhi Masroor Biswas merrily recruiting for the ISIS on Twitter handle @Shami Witness.

    Similarly, during 2016, it was Bangladesh that warned us against Zakir Naik spreading hatred and preaching radicalism. How many more Indians are engaged in such activities is anyone's guess. Today, we have some 30 Indians fighting along with the ISIS while about 20 have come back, of which many may be ‘sleepers' tasked for attacks at later dates. With China abetting Pakistani terror and Russia too going soft on Pakistan, we should be prepared for radicalization and instability in India on much higher scale without getting disillusioned by temporary halt in terrorist acts by Pakistan.

    Getting back to J&K, what exactly is the J&K State Government doing to stem the replacement of the sufi culture by hardliner wahabi-salafi preachings? What about radicalism growing in the rest of India, aided and abetted by outside forces, or for that matter indigenous groups whether to spread radical ideology or for political gains? A post on Twitter says, “Kho-kho is a true Indian sport. Everyone passes on their responsibility to someone else, and then sits on their ass.” Is this how we have been treating the issue of radicalization past decades, or is it that that the policy makers have been weighing the term ‘de-radicalization' as alien – something that is hard to decipher?

    The ground truth is that we are doing just nothing about de-radicalization. Can anyone identify who has been overall in-charge of de-radicalization at the State level or at the Centre? Is it the J&K Home Minister or the person heading the information cell, and at the Centre is it the Home Minister or the Minister of I&B?

    De-radicalization must be a well thought out strategy for J&K and the rest of the country. It should be dynamic and employed on continuous basis at personal level, aided by modern technology including exploiting the social media.

    As regards what needs to be done, for starters, if radical organizations are preaching hatred, what about a counter blitz about secularism and nationalism? Isn't it shocking that in early 2014 during a TV debate the spokesperson of a prominent political party said that “nationalism is not relevant to India”. Such idiotic remarks can only be made when nationalism is interpreted as hardcore Hinduism. On the other hand, during his speech as Chief Guest at the Herat Security Dialogue held in Afghanistan during 2015, Salman Khurshid, former EAM spoke of inter regional civilization influences and explained that “Hinduism is a way of life that embraces all and that India has Hindus, Muslim Hindus, Sikh Hindua, Christian Hindus, Buddhist Hindus, Jain Hindus etc, which is common phenomenon.”

    Dr Ali Akbar Shah, Professor Delhi University said that the Islamic countries should learn from India where mysticism of all religions including of Islam have been amalgamated and absorbed. As for Islam, India has absorbed both the Islam brought by invaders as well as by sages like Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. He said there is need to revive the true spirit of Islam and while everyone knows what has gone wrong, we need to act to set it right. Can such discourses as above be part of de-radicalization program in India? Merely stating J&K is integral part of India and providing grants to J&K is not enough. Blocking internet or mobile services is not going to impede radicalization either and Army's Operation ‘Sadbhavna' is no panacea by itself.

    De-radicalization must be a well thought out strategy for J&K and the rest of the country. It should be dynamic and employed on continuous basis at personal level, aided by modern technology including exploiting the social media. The program must have separate focus for select communities / regions, teachers / religious teachers, youth, girl child / mothers, apprehended terrorists plus population at large. Discourse of Muslim leaders should be part of de-radicalization programs. Psychological operations should include exposing terrorist abuses, conditions in POK vis-à-vis J&K, and Pakistan as epicenter of terrorism bringing ridicule to Muslims and Islam globally.

    Visuals of Pakistani genocide in Balochistan including aerial and artillery bombings would be educative. Communities must be kept informed and empowered to challenge radical ideology. Means and methods to expend youth energy and employment opportunities should be included. De-radicalization must be periodically reviewed in relation to ongoing radicalization, to ensure it is effective and course corrections made, where required. The education system must be integrated into the national mainstream. Ethics and true nationalism should form part of the education system. Introduction of NCC in most schools and colleges would be fruitful. This could be expanded swiftly using military veterans, as recommended by the Shekatkar Committee.

    The situation in J&K needs a national response but the J&K State Government has a major role to play in this and can't simply depend on security forces for return of normalcy.

    Civil society can contribute greatly in preventing and countering terrorism since it gives voice to the marginalized and vulnerable people and victims of terrorism, generating awareness and providing constructive outlet to redress grievances. Non-traditional actors like NGOs, foundations, charities, public-private partnerships and private businesses are capable and credible partners in local communities.

    Despite Pakistani sponsored propaganda, public needs to be sensitized that our Army respects human rights far more than Pakistan where aerial bombings and artillery barrages are used periodically with scant regard to collateral damage.

    Finally, adoption of pro-active approach in countering proxy wars is imperative for establishing effective deterrence, and for controlling enemy fault-lines instead of enemy controlling ours. This should include a dynamic information warfare strategy. The situation in J&K needs a national response but the J&K State Government has a major role to play in this and can't simply depend on security forces for return of normalcy.

    Finally, de-radicalization requires innovation and a dedicated body to plan and execute it. Left simply to generalists, it would not be effective. Apparently, all political parties apparently have dedicated groups setting the social media afire with the pros and cons of demonetization, as also propping up respective parties while denouncing opponent in wake of forthcoming elections. Similar effort towards de-radicalization could do wonders for our national security.

     

    Northlines
    Northlines
    The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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